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CALS Quarterly Issue 19

- Lee-Anne Bruce

Read the latest issue of our quarterly newsletter and catch up on our recent highlights supporting activists and addressing victimisation

The last year has been difficult for many human rights defenders. October marked two years since Mfolozi community leader Mam’Fikile Ntshangase was gunned down in her home. In September, Lindokuhle Mnguni was the third member of the Abahlali baseMjondolo movement to be killed this year alone – following Ayanda Ngila and Nokuthula Mabaso. These and many other lives are comemmorated in our most recent research report: ‘Victimisation Experiences of Activists in South Africa’. 

The report, launched this week, follows on from an earlier publication on the nature of victimisation experienced mainly by environmental activists from mining-affected communities. The second edition focuses on the threats and attacks faced by human rights defenders in a number of different spheres – from community activists to whistleblowers. We were pleased to be joined for the keynote address by Thapelo Mohapi  from Abahlali baseMjondolo, and to have representatives from the Right2Protest Project, the Digital Society of Africa and the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation to provide resources for human rights defenders. 

Recently, we have also celebrated important victories in our campaign against activist victimisation and strategic litigation against public participation. At the end of November, the Constitutional Court ruled ‘SLAPP’ suits form part of our law under abuse of court process. CALS intervened in the matter as a friend of the court, drawing on our research above. We also recently made submissions to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, recommending South Africa adopt mechanisms and develop legislation to protect activists. 

This year’s theme for 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is ‘Activism to end violence against women and girls’. One of our greatest highlights of 2022 has been helping to facilitate a caucus on pregnancy and sexual and reproductive health rights at the Presidential Summit on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide in November. This caucus recognised the violence experienced in health care settings during pregnancy as a form of gender-based violence. During 16 Days, our Gender Justice team has been proud to participate in further discussions on obstetric violence with our partner organisations. 

Finally, we have a number of important milestones to celebrate. We send our warmest congratulations to Dr Sheena Swemmer and Thandeka Kathi who graduated this year with an LLD from the University of Johannesburg and an LLM in international human rights law from University of Oxford respectively. We also welcome new appointments to our Board of Advisors, including Dr Zonke Majodina, Dr Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh and Dr Prishani Naidoo. 

Click the image below to read more about these and our other recent updates. Thank you as always for your engagement with our work and your support during this year. We wish you a happy and healthy end to 2022.